Backbench MLA Osbourne Bodden said residents need to prioritise their spending habits as a way of dealing with the economic downturn.
‘People come to us for money, saying they are broke, with two cell phones on their hip and driving a fancy car, sometimes in a fancier car than the people they are coming to see,’ Mr. Bodden said during his contribution to the budget debate last Friday.
‘They need to pay rent, the mortgage, food, utilities and then you can pay yourself,’ he said, adding that people shouldn’t treat themselves when they have bills to pay.
‘Sometime people don’t have any money to pay bills but they’re jumping on a plane to go shopping.’
Mr. Bodden suggested there be programmes to help people learn about budgeting and managing their money matters.
‘They need to learn how to get by in a productive way,’ he said. ‘This is important. Just how a country and a government need to be fiscally responsible, individuals need to take the same approach.
‘We’re not talking about a little problem; it’s a big problems when you can’t survive financially,’ he said.
Mr. Bodden conceded a lot of people were hurting financially here and that they come to the government for help.
‘I’m not saying it’s not tough,’ he said. ‘But people need to manage themselves a lot better.
‘We have to play our part, but the people have to realise they have a responsibility in the part they play in this very serious matter.’
No free insurance ride
Mr. Bodden believes that part of the reason the HSA and CINICO are losing so much money is that health care is being over-used.
‘It is my opinion that all insured persons need to contribute to health insurance premiums on their behalf,’ he said.
Currently, civil servants get free medical insurance as part of their benefits package.
Mr. Bodden said if people had to pay toward their health insurance costs, they would more carefully consider making a trip to the doctor or hospital.
‘When your claims increase premiums, you are more cognisant of the fact that you don’t want your bills to increase,’ he said, adding that having everyone pay part of their insurance costs would ‘reduce the amount of cost the country has to bear’.
Mr. Bodden responded to Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush’s remarks that the government should have increased relief to indigents, elderly, seamen and veterans by more than $50 from $500 per month.
‘[The increase] might be small, but it’s what we can afford at this time,’ he said.
‘We have people who, through no fault of their own, have dried up savings or they have none and they are completely dependant on the state,’ he said.
Mr. Bodden suggested exploring ways to enable indigents to be less dependant.
‘The old principle of teaching a person to fish because if you give them a fish, they’ll just keep coming back applies here,’ he said, adding that social dependence did not start with the current government.
Mr. Bodden said that the ‘hundreds and thousands’ of Caymanian Status grants given out by the previous government had increased the number of indigent people in the country.
‘Those are the actions we are reaping the reward of now,’ he said. ‘That’s why we have to burden this cost.’
Financial industry strong
Mr. Bodden refuted comments from the Opposition that suggested Cayman’s financial industry was hurting.
‘From all reports from the financial industry, things are going quite well,’ he said, adding that his wife had just told him that the amount of new hedge fund business her company is seeing ‘is unbelievable’.
‘The figures speak for themselves.’
Mr. Bodden spoke of the government initiative to lure reinsurance companies to the Cayman Islands.
‘We aren’t looking to compete with Bermuda,’ he said. ‘I don’t think we can do that because they are huge.
‘But we’re looking to put us on our own footing.’
Mr. Bodden praised Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin for commissioning the Reinsurance Task Force.
‘There is a lot of good work and a lot of good findings coming out of that.’
Mr. Bodden said Cayman was looking to add three or four reinsurance companies in Cayman to shore up the financial industry.
McKeeva has to go
Mr. Bodden also spent a considerable amount of his debate criticising Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush.
‘It’s time for him to go,’ Mr. Bodden said. ‘Yes, he has done some good, but he’s caused a lot of mischief.’
Mr. Bodden said that from the time Mr. Bush has been in the House, he has been a ‘troublemaker’.
‘I told him the other day he must be Houdini’s cousin the way he wiggles out of situations,’ he said. ‘But where there is smoke, there is fire. He’s been involved in so many situations over the years that something has to be true.’
Mr. Bodden criticised the Opposition’s contribution to the budget debate.
‘The Opposition has, it is safe to say, shown desperation so far, in that they have been negative in their debate.’
Responding to Opposition claims the PPM government is dishonest; Mr. Bodden said that when someone calls the government dishonest, they were calling him dishonest.
‘If there’s one thing I’m not, it’s dishonest,’ he said.